Colruyt Group is investing heavily in the fight for less litter

Within the context of the “Joining hands for less street litter” 5-year plan, Colruyt Group is launching a new large-scale campaign to tackle litter. A specially designed infrastructure and a national awareness campaign should encourage employees and customers alike to dispose of rubbish properly. This is a first in Belgium. Previously, Colruyt Group had carried out a successful simulation in 11 shop car parks which led to a significant reduction in litter. The retailer is now rolling out this successful project in 220 Colruyt shop car parks and at several of the group’s central sites. There will be at least one smokers’ pole and a prominent litter island for sorting PMD and residual waste, amounting to an investment of €700,000. Posters in shops, and in bus shelters near the shops, labels on over 4 million litter-sensitive disposable packaging items and a litter challenge are certain to help change behaviour towards creating less litter.

The problem of litter, even in shop car parks, is increasing. This is why Colruyt Group conducted an experiment last year in the context of the “Joining hands for less street litter” action plan. Smokers’ poles and litter islands, consisting of bins for sorting PMD and residual waste, were installed in 11 Colruyt shop car parks as well as at a number of central sites such as distribution centres. With this extra infrastructure, the retailer wanted to encourage its employees and customers to throw away their rubbish properly. And the approach clearly worked: on test sites there was 25% less litter and more rubbish was thrown away correctly. In addition, the cleanliness score improved considerably everywhere.

This experiment shows that a positive influence offers an important solution to problem behaviour such as littering. By providing the right infrastructure, you literally give people the final impetus to throw away their rubbish properly. Because even if they know that they’re not allowed to throw their litter onto the ground, they haven’t yet changed their behaviour. You can achieve that using this approach, which also works better in the long term, because it demands relatively little effort from people,” explains Professor Siegfried Dewitte (KU Leuven), specialist in behavioural change.

More than just PET bottles and cans

Colruyt Group is now rolling out this pilot project on a large scale. For example, 220 car parks at Colruyt shops, distribution centres and other areas managed by Colruyt Group, now have at least 1 smokers’ pole and 1 litter island with sorting bins for residual waste and PMD. In places where there is a lot of litter, there will be more.

In specific terms, the group is investing €700,000 in 600 new rubbish bins, 600 smokers’ poles and 30 suspended rubbish bins. The retailer wants to tackle all types of litter. Vic De Meester, Environmental Coordinator at Colruyt Group adds, “We want to create a leverage effect, primarily through our employees, but also through our customers. We take on our social responsibility by setting a good example and by offering the appropriate infrastructure.

In addition, Colruyt Group is also carrying out a national litter awareness campaign using advertisements, posters in shops and in bus shelters in the immediate vicinity of the shops. Public areas near the shops are particularly susceptible to litter. There will also be extra notices on litter-sensitive packaging of 6 types of soft drink and crisps in the ‘Everyday’ own brand range. This should encourage consumers to throw away the packaging in the right bin. In total, this involves around 4.4 million products. Finally, the retailer is organising the amusing ‘Trash Can Trick Shot’ challenge. Through this, Colruyt Group is challenging its customers and employees to throw their rubbish into the bin using an original trick.

We are focusing more than ever on long-term behavioural change. This is also necessary for stopping public littering. Everyone thinks it makes sense to throw everything away properly at home, but that’s not yet the case outdoors. We need to change that behaviour urgently. The experiment with litter islands shows that behavioural change is possible. In addition, we’re also going for a total approach, because litter is far more than just PET bottles and cans. With all these efforts, and together with our almost 30,000 employees, we’re supporting the government in the fight for less litter,” concludes Vic De Meester.

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Hanne Poppe & Silja Decock

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